TED Conversations

Sandy Mitchell

Consciousness Researcher, Affect Psychology (Facebook page)

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Deepening the conversation & dialogue about shame with other interested folks.

While Brene Brown's TED Talk is a wonderful conversation-starter about shame, and I give her full credit for courageously putting the difficult subject of shame on the table; the subject is much deeper than she could go into given the length of her talk. I have been studying shame for a long time, and have found much wonderful work done on the subject by lots of people in a variety of fields. Unfortunately most of that work goes unrecognized and so most people are unable to benefit from it. I'd love to participate in an on-going conversation that has the potential to continue long after this TED forum page expires.


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    Apr 7 2012: Hi all...
    I'm cross-posting this from a recent discussion list where a question was asked about embarrassment...it's in two parts.

    Here is the science behind shame/embarrassment. Human beings are all born with innate capacities to experience what we call ‘emotions,’ often called ‘feelings.’ It’s interesting that only in recent years has the study of this incredibly important part of our life-experience started to get significant study.

    Our emotions evolved as a means to interpret our experience. We all know from our own experience that our emotions can be powerful motivators in our lives, giving us important information about how we are reacting to events and people in our lives.

    Unfortunately, because humanity as a whole has not understood the realm of emotion very well, we are often confused about how to interpret the information our emotions are giving us. Sometimes we take the information our emotions provide (such as the anger we feel that gives us a message like: “I really don’t like this situation I’m in!”) and take misguided actions that only make a bad situation worse - because that's what we learned to do.

    We learn to give meaning to the physical sensations that our emotions arouse in us through how our parents and others respond or react to us when we’re displaying our emotions.

    In the specific case of embarrassment (which is one of the forms the basic emotion of shame takes), the feeling of it comes over us very quickly and ‘jams our circuits’ for a bit. We feel suddenly confused and unsure of ourselves. What happens when shame of any kind is triggered internally, is that our Sympathetic Nervous System (which is activated when we move towards something or somebody with the emotion of Interest) suddenly is squelched by our Parasympathetic Nervous System (which is triggered by the fear that we may have done something wrong) having been activated. . .


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